ABHMS’ CiP grant supports role-playing program that bolsters youth

When awarding Justice for Children Initiative Children in Poverty (CiP) grants this year, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) will offer special consideration to projects that focus on anti-bullying efforts and cultivate conflict-resolution and nonviolent communication skills among children and/or parents. Applications for CiP grants must be received by or postmarked to ABHMS by April 29, 2015.

fc_CIPGrantBelfastEncounterAroundTable_175wOne such project—The Game Loft—received a CiP grant in 2013. Part of the Maine Youth Alliance, The Game Loft, Belfast, Maine, offers youth and young adults a safe environment to play non-electronic games, learn leadership skills and practice dealing with everyday dilemmas, such as bullying.

After two years of running the All About Games shop, Ray and Patricia Estabrook organized The Game Loft, a community center focused on recreation. Intended for school-aged youth, The Game Loft has served a range of ages, from those as young as 8 to those graduating high school. It has received a variety of awards and grants because of its service to the community.

The Game Loft partnered with First Baptist Church (FBC) of Belfast and two other area churches—First Church United Church of Christ (UCC) and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church—to create “ENCOUNTERS,” a program in which youth from sixth grade and up meet several Sunday afternoons monthly to explore faith by role playing 21st-century scenarios. The churches take turns hosting meetings, and special activities have included overnight camping.

“We entered into planning and implementation of ENCOUNTERS with the local UCC church, the Episcopal church and The Game Loft three years ago to provide an opportunity for youth in our congregation to interface with others from other denominations and those with no church affiliation,” says the Rev. Alan Shumway, pastor of FBC. “Our shared intention has been to provide a place of faith exploration and faith formation, meeting kids ‘wherever they are’ on the faith journey.”

Led by adults, including pastors, role play helps youth understand and apply Jesus’ teachings to
present-day challenges. “The role-play format has been an engaging, exciting and fun way for kids to see the application of biblical stories to their everyday experiences,” Shumway says.

The group has begun portraying season six of an ongoing mini-series set in the fictional town of
New Salem, Maine.

For more information about or to apply for a Justice for Children Initiative CiP grant, visit the
CiP page or contact the Rev. Lisa Harris Lee, national coordinator, ABHMS’ Justice for Children initiative, at lisa.harris-lee@abhms.org or 1-800-222-3872, x2158. CIP grant applications for 2015 must be received by or postmarked to ABHMS no later than April 29, 2015.